About Musings

In the classroom, our teachers lead students through a challenging course of study; outside the classroom, they serve as mentors and advisors, coaches and role models.

View recent musings below to learn about a few of our faculty members and their enduring interests in the field of education.

"Conversations" Joan Lamain, 4th Grade Teacher

Recently, an educational blog entitled “Teaching your students how to have a conversation” caught my eye. With technology constantly taking more of our students’ time, and text messages and tweets filling our children’s lives, having an honest-to-goodness face-to-face conversation is becoming a forgotten art.  Television and media portray people simply shouting and talking over each other, without listening to what the other is saying. Part of me wants to blame technology because it is such an easy scapegoat but, coming from a larger family long before technology invaded, we honestly had similar problems of talking over each other and not listening.

The wooden spoon was an integral part of family dinners for years. The rule was simple: no talking unless you had the spoon. Not only did this force us to listen to each other, but it also allowed the speaker to complete his or her thoughts before someone interrupted them. The art of conversation is not innate, but an acquired skill that allows us to learn and grow. The article shared the following eight insightful tips:

    1. Model a good conversation.
      Children learn by what they see. The more they see good discussions, the more they will mimic and learn the skill of good conversation.
    2. Encourage physical cues.
      By drawing attention to good non-verbal cues, students will learn that it isn’t just about listening, but also showing you are listening with your body. Eye contact, asking questions, and being attentive can be a big part of a conversation.
    3. Challenge put-downs or hurtful comments.
      Teaching your children to respectfully disagree or asking them to rephrase a comment in a non-hurtful way opens them up to new ideas that they may not have considered, instead of shutting down a conversation with hurt.
    4. Ask open-ended questions.
      By allowing more than one correct answer or a range of opinions, children learn that expressing a variety of ideas is acceptable.
    5. Put thinking ahead of knowing.
      Make it acceptable to wonder and guess, not just always to have the right answer.
    6. Have informal chats.
      Ask their opinion or about their feelings, and share your thoughts as well.
    7. Make eye contact.
      This seems obvious, but it is a skill that many children lack.
    8. Encourage turn-taking.
      In my class, we have a purple squishy ball in place of the wooden spoon. When a child holds it, they are the “talker” while others are listening.  Whatever you choose, it helps to give a visual sign of who the talker is.

As adults, we have learned the enjoyment of a good conversation. Let’s pass this on to our children and keep the art of conversation alive and well.

Credit: “Teaching Your Students How to Have a Conversation” by Dr. Allen Mendler Edutopia.org, 5 November 2013

"Keeping Up with the Series" Sarah Chessman, Middle School Librarian

In the last ten years, during my career as a school librarian, series have pretty much taken over the world of children’s and young adult publishing. Series are so prevalent among books for kids that it often feels like the stand-alone book is an endangered species. As a librarian, and I’d imagine as a parent, there are many reasons why the influx of series is a wonderful thing. For one, avid readers will never run out of things to read. For another, reluctant readers are more easily persuaded into wanting to read. Whenever a reluctant or pessimistic reader visits me, I always aim him or her towards the series section. Books published in series tend to lean more towards fantasy and science fiction, adventure, action, and general fun. I’ve found that these books are more likely to engage a reluctant reader. Once the first book in the series is finished, there is often a desire to read the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that.

To better accommodate students, I’ve pulled series books out of the general collection and created a section specifically dedicated to those with two or more titles in the group. The TASIS Middle School Library currently contains 91 series in this new section and the collection will continue to grow with new additions continually being identified and pulled from the general collection. It is a tricky and time-consuming feat to identify all of the series books, update the records for each title in the online catalog, relabel each book (especially for one as annoyingly detail-oriented as I happen to be), and move all the books.

In the end, what we’ve ended up with is a collection that spans four bookshelves (16 shelves in total) and makes it extremely easy for students to locate and borrow their favorite series books. Do they sometimes end up having to wait for the next book in the series? Yes. Does it sometimes seem like the WORST PROBLEM IN THE WORLD? Yes. As long as students are distraught over not having access to the book they want right away (and we know that book will soon be available to them), we’re all doing something right!
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